Nicola Mendelsohn says she ‘probably faced antisemitism’ at Manchester school

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Nicola Mendelsohn says she ‘probably faced antisemitism’ at Manchester school

In a statement Manchester High School for Girls describe Mendelsohn - the vice-president of Facebook owning firm Meta - as an 'inspiration' and say they 'take any reports of prejudice extremely seriously.'

Nicola Mendelsohn
Nicola Mendelsohn

Nicola Mendelsohn, vice president of Meta, the company which owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, has said there was “probably some antisemitism” that she faced as a pupil at leading Manchester school.

Speaking out about her experience of education for The Diary of a CEO podcast, Mendelsohn, who was raised in an orthodox Jewish home, claimed she was missed out on new subject topics because “a couple of teachers that would always insist on starting the new topics on a Friday afternoon.”

The hugely successful 50 year-old businesswoman also claimed her “confidence was smashed” by teachers who told her “I wasn’t very good, I wasn’t smart.”

Recalling her time at Manchester High School for Girls, Mendelsohn said:“With hindsight, I think there was probably some antisemitism that I experienced at school, a few particular incidents that stick out.

“I’m religious and I observe the Sabbath, and that meant in the winter months that I would go home early from school, and we had a couple of teachers that would always insist on starting the new topics on a Friday afternoon.”

She said her parents complained to the school – but they were told that if they insisted on observing shabbat it was not the school’s problem.

Mendelsohn, who is married to Labour peer Lord Jon Mendelsohn, also claimed teachers at the school dented her confidence.

She said: “I was told at school that I wasn’t very good, that I wasn’t very clever, that I wasn’t going to pass my exams.

“I had an English teacher who used to mark me down, and my marks were really low. I was like, two out of 10, three out of 10, I was in a good school and these were not my marks.

“My parents again, it’s kind of a thing here, they were backing me, they actually took my English book to one of my brother’s teachers and said, ‘What do you think of this work, we don’t understand the marks?’

“My confidence was so smashed by these teachers telling me I wasn’t good, I wasn’t smart, I didn’t think that I would maybe even do A-Levels, or even go onto university at that time, which was kind of the norm for that school.”

Mendelsohn, now Meta’s VP of global business, went on to get an A in her English A-Level and secured a place at the University of Leeds to study the subject.

She revealed she returned to her former school to confront her teacher after receiving her grades..

“She was, as you can imagine, quite shocked,” she said. I said I’ve come to tell you that you could have destroyed my life, and the power you wielded on others could destroy and, I said, you really came close with that with me, and taking away a dream of mine that might never have been realised.

“I just needed to tell her that, and I felt better for telling her that. I never saw her again.”

Responding to the allegations Manchester High School for Girls said in a statement: “We stand against antisemitism in the strongest possible terms and take any reports of prejudice extremely seriously.

“We were shocked to listen to Nicola Mendelsohn’s story, and stress that it does not reflect the school’s values in any way. MHSG believes deeply in inclusivity, kindness, and supporting each other to achieve outstanding academic and personal success.

“Nicola is an inspiration to our students, and we are deeply sorry to learn of her experiences.

“We encourage anyone in our school community who believes they have experienced anything similar, including our alumnae, to contact the school.”

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